HOW TO BE MORE CREATIVE (AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT)
Linkedin Learning, which is an online educational platform, recently identified creativity as the #1 soft skill needed in 2020. (1) Additionally, creativity was found to be the second-most in-demand skill in the world, with cloud computing as #1. But cloud computing is considered to be a hard skill, which means it applied to a specific section of the workforce, whereas creativity can be used in every field. (2)
What are soft and hard skills?
Hard skills are someone’s ability to do a specific task, and soft skills are more about the way they do them — how they adapt, collaborate, solve problems, and make decisions.
Hard skills include specialized knowledge and technical abilities, such as software development, sales or video production. They’re much easier to define and quantify than soft skills.
Soft skills are more about behavior and thinking, personal traits and cognitive skills. They’re typically more difficult to measure, but they can also help a person thrive in a variety of roles and industries.
Now that we’ve identified how valuable creativity is as a soft skill and a skill in general, I want to cover all the benefits of being creative. When people hear the word ‘creative’, they often think of artists, designers or musicians, but creativity can be applied to everything in life, from math, sales, motherhood to software design.
Here are 6 benefits of creativity:
- Creativity cannot be replaced or replicated.
Some have predicted that in the next 15 years, 40% of jobs can be automated through the use of AI. Although AI can now produce music and art, it does so with the help of human creativity, which can’t be replicated or fabricated. There will never be another Frank Lloyd Wright, Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs or Picasso.
Paul Robson, President of Adobe EMEA, says “The fusing of technology and the human process is helping us create better products. But nothing will take away that human ability to understand the emotive connection; the link between a brand and the feeling you get when you smell something that reminds you of your childhood, hear a song you listened to as a teenager, feel the condensation on the side of a coke bottle or see a glass of wine or cold beer at the end of a long day.”
- Creativity is better for business. (3)
A global study by Adobe found that businesses which invest in creativity experience:
- Increased employee productivity (78 percent)
- Increased customer satisfaction (80 percent)
- A reportedly better customer experience (78 percent)
- Regularly foster innovation (83 percent)
- Reportedly more financially success (73 percent)
Creativity is the ingredient that takes your product or service from being a commodity to a necessity.
- Creative teams do more with less. (4)
In a research study of creative teams in industry, Gilson, Mathieu, Shalley and Ruddy (2005) found that teams that were more creative scored higher on objective measures of performance and were also found to work more effectively within budgets.
- Creativity sets you apart.
Marketing agencies don’t want just another person pushing out traditional ads with the same CTA each time, they want someone who can regularly increase brand awareness and constantly challenge the status quo. Software companies don’t just want someone who can write code, they want someone who can dream up new software to fix old problems. Companies don’t want business analysts who just crunch numbers; they want analysts who can think of creative solutions based off what the numbers are telling them.
- Creativity reduces stress and anxiety.
In the study “Everyday Creative Activity as a Path to Flourishing”, it concluded that engaging in a creative activity just once a day can lead to a more positive state of mind.
One of the researchers, Tamlin Conner, said, “Research often yields complex, murky, or weak findings. But, these patterns were strong and straightforward: Doing creative things today predicts improvements in well-being tomorrow.” (5)
- Creativity gives you a greater sense of purpose.
Whether it’s with your hands or with your mind, there is no greater feeling than using our skills to contribute to something greater than ourselves. Doing that on a regular basis will inevitably give you a greater sense of purpose and quality of life.
So, if you want to “future-proof” your career and make a better life for yourself, there’s not many more effective ways than focusing on thinking more creatively.
And, despite what you might have thought before, creativity is a skill. And, like any skill, it means you can get better at it – if you work at it.
How can we become more creative?
1. Be intentional.
Picasso said, “inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” In his lifetime, he created over 50,000 works of art, but when we think of Picasso, I’m sure only a few paintings come to mind.
You have to think of this contextually, though. Picasso is a great example for an artist, but who is someone that you admire in your field?
Steve Jobs had multiple failures before and after the iPhone.
Amazon has started and stopped plenty of smaller companies that weren’t profitable and even lost the company money.
The Beatles have countless songs most people have never heard of, and they played hundreds of times for little to nothing for over 3 years in small clubs before they got their big break.
In order to become more creative, you have to commit to being intentional and staying consistent over a long period of time, if not forever. So, where do you start, and what does being intentional about creativity look like for you?
- Listen to podcasts. Ones that align with your interests, and diverse ones that may have nothing to do with your field of expertise, but somehow spark creativity.
- Listen to or watch TED Talks. These short, information packed videos of ideas worth spreading are bound to inspire you.
- Do your research on other brands or leaders in your field of interest. Learn about their background, their upbringing, the projects they are working on right now, and some of their failures.
- Read more creative copy. I subscribe to the Morning Brew, Retail Brew and Tech Brew – because I love how they write, and I love what I learn from them every day. It almost always gives me some creative fuel.
- Read good books. This can be fiction or non-fiction; try not to read too much of the same stuff.
2. Do the work.
If you want to grow your muscles, going to the gym once isn’t going to do it. Much like working out has to become a habit if you want to get in shape, the same applies to creativity.
Refine your schedule to allow yourself the space to flex your creativity muscles on a regular basis, by:
- Have a morning routine (you can have a night one, but it’s more difficult)
- Try journaling your thoughts, tasks, prayer lists, struggles, wins, things you’re looking forward to, etc.
- Take 5-10 minutes to meditate or pray.
- Read a few pages.
- Try drawing or painting.
- Start a blog or begin making short form posts on Instagram about the things you’re learning or interested in right now.
- Trying not to jam-pack your schedule every day. I get it.. some of my days, there are no breaks. But a few days out of the week, I try to create “white space” in my schedule so I just have time to sit and think in between tasks or meetings.
- Schedule “creative time” if your job allows that type of flexibility just like you would any other appointment.
3. Curate your environment.
For me, I know what time of day I am most creative, I know what type of music I like to listen to when I want to focus, and I know where I like to be. Most of the time, it’s early morning or late evening, and I like to be drinking coffee (morning) or wine (evening) and listening to ambient style indie music. I am typically at a coffee shop that I know has space and a chair that isn’t going to kill my butt or back if I sit there for a few hours.
Also, I try to make sure I have no distractions, all my other work is out of the way or at least out of sight, and I eat before so I won’t get hungry in the middle of a project.
Only you know what type of setting is best for you, and maybe you haven’t figured that out yet, but I highly recommend curating your environment in such a way that you can be most creative and focused.
4. Look for gaps.
Motorola was the first company to produce a handheld mobile phone. On April 3, 1973, Martin Cooper, a Motorola researcher and executive, made the first mobile telephone call from handheld subscriber equipment, placing a call to Dr. Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs, his rival. That story doesn’t have much to do with this point, besides the face that a) it’s an awesome story and b) the cell phone would have never been invented if someone, at some point, got fed up with having to be in the kitchen attached to a chord to talk to a friend. God bless you, Martin Cooper.
Often times, creativity is manifested as a solution to a problem. What problems can you solve with your creativity? What gaps can you fill that maybe no one else sees but you?
Most of us say that we don’t like change, but I don’t think that’s true. When it’s up to us, we change things all the time. What things can you change to make better?
5. Ask for advice.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “every man is my superior, in that, I learn of him”. Meaning that we can learn something from everyone, especially when it comes to creativity. Everyone sees the world through a slightly different lens, and we all have slightly different perspectives on everything; no matter how similar we may be.
When I am working on something, especially if it’s big (to me), I will ask people their advice in different fields and from different walks of life, just to get an alternative perspective and ignite some thought-provoking conversation. Usually, whatever I am working on ends up being much better because of it.
If you struggle with taking advice from others, whether it’s leaning too heavily on it or not taking it at all, I highly recommend checking out my podcast or blog on “How to Measure the Value of Criticism”
I recommend always starting with your close friends, coworkers and your immediate circle. From there, branch out and leverage your distanced relationships, people’s without completely different interests and even social media.